New Fellenbaum Octave Mandolin #22

I’m happy to say, that I’ve recently acquired a Fellenbaum octave mandolin made by Tom Fellenbaum, owner of Acoustic Corner in Black Mountain, NC.

Fellenbaum Octave Mandolin #22. Spruce and Cherry. 21 3/4 scale length.

Fellenbaum Octave Mandolin #22. Spruce and Cherry. 21 3/4 scale length.

Four years ago I contacted Tom about building an octave mandolin.  We talked about it briefly, but then I didn’t have the funds at the time to pull the trigger.  Turns out, that at the same time I was talking to him, another fellow was too.  He even wanted the same scale length and wood choices.  So Tom went ahead and cut out the top, neck, back and sides for two octave mandolins.  He build the mandolin for the other guy, and had the pieces of the second mandolin hanging around his shop.

Fast forward to two months ago.  I contacted Tom again.   My work is going well, and I had some extra funds.  He said, all I have to do is put it (the pieces) together!

I picked it up yesterday and couldn’t be happier.  It’s got a rich tone and good volume.  The scale length 21 3/4 is perfect for me.  It allows me to play chords when I don’t know the tune, and play the melody easy enough when I do.   Here is a quick sound clip, playing the Far Away Waltz and the Ten Penny Bit.

Tom is a fantastic, professional and timely builder/artist.  The instrument was done a few days before the estimated completion, and the fit and finish are gorgeous.

Glad I got her before his wait list exploded!


Weber Yellowstone Traditional Octave Mandolin Review

At Celtic Week I noticed a post on the wall by the cafeteria announcing the sale of a 2010 Weber Yellowstone Octave Mandolin for $2740.00, or something close to that. Sounded interesting. Since I had only really ever played my Trinity College Octave Mandolin, or one of Tom Fellenbaum’s (of Acoustic Corner in Black Mountain, NC) I figured I’d like to see what kind of quality you get spending 5 times what I spent, or twice as much as what Tom charges.

yellowstone traditional octave mandolinFirst thing I noticed was that the neck felt like a baseball bat. It was pretty thick and chunky. The strings were at a good height, but I did notice the bridge wasn’t sitting completely flat on the body. (That may have just been a poor setup?)

As you know I’m primarily a flat top player (Although I did play 4 stellar archtop mandos this week. One was a late teens Gibson F-2; another was an early 20’s Gibson F-4; then my roomate had an A and an F Stonebridge. I would’ve bought the F Stonebridge right then if I could’ve.), sometimes archtops sound too tight and compact in their sound to me. This too was the case with this Weber Yellowstone Octave Mandolin. It had nice intense projection, but it certainly did not have a sound I wanted to pay over 2K for. There wasn’t any sweetness to the sound. It was harsh and metallic, too much for my preferences.

It was a beautiful instrument to look at, but I’m still a fan of the wide open smoother sound of my economy Trinity College. (With heavier gauge strings to make it sing like that, of course!)

yellowstone traditional octave mandolin

Eastman, Gibson, & Mowry Mandolins

Way back in 2009, I thought it would be fun to record and post clips of three very different mandolins on the Mandolin Cafe, to see who could tell the difference.  This was a fun experiment and a tonally enlightening one.


Gibson Master Model A5G

Here is the original post I made:

This was posted in another thread, but it didn’t really fit the thread and kind of hijacked it. (My apologies.) I’m always interested to see people’s subjective responses to mandolins. Can you tell which mandolin is which from the recordings below, site unseen? (Oh yeah…and if you have time to give a description of why you made the choices you did, I think that might be helpful.)

Here are recordings of two arch tops and one flat top.

Arch Tops Include

Eastman 604
Gibson Master Model A5G

Mowry Flat Top Two Point

Flat Top
Mowry Two Point

I have not listed them in order, I’d like to see who can match the sound to the instrument??! Sound like fun? Both files play a selection on one instrument, then the same selection on the second and then the same selection on the third. The instruments are in the same order on both files.
I just took my mando down to the music shop, comandeered (sp?) two other mandos and lined them up in a line and went through playing the same thing on each. This was recorded on a Zoom h2 using a proplec heavy pick. The distance from the recorder was the same on all instruments.
The weather was rainy, and 50 degrees. No sun shone this day. My truck did not hydroplane either on the way to Black

Eastman 604

Eastman 604

Mountain, nor on the way back.

I’ll post the correct answers Monday or Tuesday of next week to give plenty of folks time.

You can read the rest of the posts here on this thread. They are entertaining.


#1 was the Eastman, #2 was the Mowry, #3 was the Gibson

Out of 13 people guessing (oops I mean listening).

6 thought #1 was the Eastman, 3 thought #1 was the Gibson, 4 thought #1 was the Mowry

0 thought #2 was the Eastman, 4 thought #2 was the Gibson, 9 thought #2 was the Mowry

7 thought #3 was the Eastman, 6 thought #3 was the Gibson, and 0 thought #3 was the Mowry

Mid-Missouri Model M-1 Mandolin Review

A while ago, a mandolin student, lent me her Mid-Missouri Model M1 Mandolin for fun. I just wanted to play it a bit and see what I thought.  I had often picked one of these up at the Acoustic Corner in Black Mountain, NC. They were fun instruments for the price range.

Mid Missouri M-1 Flat Style Mandolin

Anyway, while the sound didn’t knock my socks off compared to some of the mandolins I’m used to playing, I thought it had a nice tone for the price, especially compared to other arch top pac rim mandolins I’d played for twice the price. (Although have you ever noticed how one mandolin sounds really great, until you compare it to another? Or even how you think yours really doesn’t sing like you would like, until you match it up against a different one, and your appreciation of the voice goes up?)

The intonation was good, and the action acceptable. The neck was a little to thin for me, but then again, I like wider fret boards.

Overall, this was a sweet little mandolin, and if I wanted a less expensive flat top, that I would happily take to sessions and play a show with, this would be the one.  It was solid and functional and got the job done.

Now keep in mind, I often think that the person playing the mandolin is more important than the expense of the mandolin. I’ve heard a number of people play 5K mandos and sound like crap, and others play $300-$500 mandos and make it sing like a bird.  Just saying this, so you know, if you are a skilled player with a good feel for music, but don’t have a lot of money, you could do well by one of these.

Mid-Missouri Model M-1 Mandolin (From FolkOfTheWood.Com)
Solid Honduran mahogany back and sides. Solid Engelmann spruce top. Honduras mahogany neck. Rosewood fretboard and bridge. Includes binding on the body.

Andrew Jerman Electric Mandolin Review

Andrew Jerman's #11 Before the Electronics

Every body loves an electric mandolin right!?  Well, not everybody, but I sure did. Back when I played with the Full Moon Dusters here in

Asheville, I got it in my head that I needed an electric mandolin. Enjoying the sound of my Les Paul through a Tube Amp, I figured I would equally enjoy the sound of a nice mandolin through that same Tube Amp. Here’s a clip of an Andrew Jerman #11, Two Point Electric Mandolin, playing two of my favorite jigs with a drummer and rock and roll bassist.

I enjoyed the short time I had this lovely little mandolin. Although, the rest of the band, didn’t. They told me, “It just sounds like a really high pitched electric guitar, and we didn’t want you in the band to play a really high pitched electric guitar. So take your tube amp home and get out your regular mandolin!”

I argued a bit. The bassist and drummer didn’t seem to mind too much, so they backed me up, but then again, when Justin (banjo/vocals) and Robin (guitar/flute/vocals) weren’t looking, we’d break into the middle section of Dazed and Confused, as loud as possible.

Andrew Jerman #11 Up Close Sunburst

Finally I posted it on the Mandolin Cafe, and sold it quickly for a little more than I paid for it. (Always a good idea.)

Overall, I enjoyed the little guitar with four strings. It was easy to play and had great tone.  The sun burst was eye catching, and the two points, my preference. The neck was a little narrower than I like, and the tone and volume knobs were a hair crooked. The frets could’ve been bigger? Then again, my main mandolin has banjo fret wire, so it’s just my preference.

Andrew was a great guy to work with. I didn’t have him make this custom, but bought it after it was half way complete. I imagine that if I would’ve asked for a wider neck, bigger fret wire, and better tone and volume pots, I would’ve got them.

For the price ($400 I think?), you couldn’t beat it.  I wonder where little #11 is now?